Execution date set for inmate who brought challenge to lethal injection change, mental retardation rules
4:10 pm, February 5th, 2013
One day after the Georgia Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal, a judge has set a new execution date for Warren Lee Hill.
The office of Attorney General Sam Olens announced the Feb. 19 execution date, explaining that a Superior Court judge earlier in the day had set a seven-day window from that day for the execution.
Hill was convicted by a Lee County jury for the 1990 murder of fellow inmate Joseph Handspike. Hill had been serving a life sentence for the murder of his girlfriend.
In federal and state habeas proceedings, Hill challenged Georgia’s requirement that an inmate provide proof of mental retardation beyond a reasonable doubt if he wants to avoid execution under a 2002 U.S. Supreme Court rule that bars execution of the mentally retarded.
A state court judge who found Hill mildly mentally retarded said the Georgia standard was unconstitutional, and some state and federal appeals court judges agreed, but the full U.S Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 2011 voted 7-4 to uphold it.
Hill was scheduled to be executed last summer, but the state Supreme Court gave him a reprieve so it could consider his argument that the state’s reduction of the number of drugs used in lethal injection from three to one was the sort of change that triggered certain administrative requirements, such as a public notice and comment period. A unanimous court rejected that argument yesterday.
UPDATE: The AG’s office announced a second execution date later this afternoon. Andrew Allen Cook, convicted of the 1995 murders of two Mercer University students, is scheduled to be executed on Feb. 21. A spokeswoman for Olens said yesterday that Cook, whose appeal was rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court just two weeks ago, was the only Georgia death row inmate who completed his appeals during the time since the Georgia Supreme Court stayed Hill’s execution.